Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

This blog introduces a scoping review that will focus on papers reporting on social capital and loneliness and community-based interventions.

Loneliness was discussed a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic, as social isolation was required in response to national lockdowns. However, the negative impact of loneliness was a concern for public health long before this global crisis. As a consequence, in recent decades there has been an increasing interest in ways to mitigate loneliness. Developing social capital could be one means of doing so.

Social capital relates to the range of benefits people accrue through social connections. Social capital has been described by the Office for National Statistics as “…the extent and nature of our connections with others and the collective attitudes and behaviours between people that support a well functioning, close-knit society.” Higher levels of social capital have been linked to decreased loneliness (Litwin and Shiovitz-Ezra, 2011; Nyqvist et al., 2016). Furthermore, it is argued that social capital can prevent ill-effects to come from loneliness (Baron-Epel et al., 2022). Therefore, interventions that allow for the development of social capital might help to alleviate loneliness and its negative consequences.

Community-based interventions could be a route to fostering social capital; non-statutory services or programmes that are locally established and manned. Such interventions might include:

  • Art/music-based activities
  • Food banks/larders
  • Social clubs/groups (including sports groups)
  • Befriending services
  • Community gardens/growing spaces
  • Share/repair cafes
  • Community cafes

We plan to map existing evidence on community-based interventions that have a clear focus on improving people’s physical and/or emotional well-being; we will document what they state about social capital and loneliness. To do this, we will conduct a scoping review to addresses the following question: What community-based interventions, with a focus on well-being, have been evaluated in the UK that include information about social capital and loneliness? Included papers will have to provide information or data on social capital and loneliness.

Through the review, we will seek to:

  • Capture how social capital has been defined in included papers
  • Capture how loneliness has been defined in included papers
  • Identify measurement tools used in included papers to assess social capital and loneliness
  • Report which groups have been involved in included papers (e.g. gender, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status)
  • Summarise how community-based interventions described in included papers have sought to develop social capital and address loneliness; identify proposed mechanisms through which these initiatives support social capital or address loneliness
  • Ascertain areas for further research

A protocol for the review can be found via this link. We plan to finish the review by autumn 2023. For further details, please contact Stephanie Tierney at the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, University of Oxford (

Update: Jan 2024 - a paper reporting on this review has now been published in Lifestyle Medicine.  

Scoping reviews are one of the topics to be covered in a short course being run by Dr Stephanie Tierney at the University of Oxford.  

The review referred to in this blog has been funded by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Oxford and Thames Valley. Views expressed in this blog are those of the author; they are not necessarily those of the funder or her host institution.